This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.
“The machine is ready, but you are not.” Scylla reached over for an Allagan injector vial, and held Amon’s arm straight as she plunged the needle into his upper forearm. Powerful relaxants and painkillers rushed into his arm. She didn’t know how much it would help. It never stopped those with aethersickness from screaming as they melted away from a raging internal fire.
“This will help with the pain, Amon. Now, try to relax and breathe as deeply as possible.”
Her voice was shaky and unsure, but she tried to reassure her patient, holding his hand. Scylla looked up at Ben and gave a nod towards the machine.
“Okay. Let us proceed.”
Whatever she’d just injected into his arm hit Amon like a ton of rotten food on a bad performance night. His senses, usually so under his control, went into complete spasms, alternating from hardly hearing to smelling odd odors to having a rather… pleasant… taste in his mouth.
Amon couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the strange rush of sensations he experienced as his broken cloned body tried to make sense of the serum.
“I could have used a shot of that sooner,” the Allagan crooned, his words slurring a bit.
Ben pursed his lips and looked at Scylla, “At least he’s starting to relax.”
The mage brought the blank crystal closer to Amon’s chest, his green eyes flicking over to her. Something within them asking if SHE was ready.
“Remove his choker, then be ready to help me contain the aether flow. I’m not sure how it will respond after having been suppressed for so long,” Ben warned.
Scylla bit her lip, taking a deep breath as she looked up at Ben. They had rehearsed this several times, though now, Amon lay prone in front of her. She reached around the back Amon’s neck, fingers pressing against the clasp with one hand, and her other palm outstretched over his chest. As she slowly peeled away the choker, she could feel the pressures of the dark aether boil and bubble below his very being.
“Here we go…” With a deliberate motion, Scylla pulled away the choker, almost frightened that Amon would dissolve away to dust as it slipped away from his skin.
For one long still breath, everything remained silent. A sliver of calm before the storm. Then, it came – storm quite literally – as what could only be described as a cloud of darkness rose seething in furious black plumes from every surface of Amon’s body.
Even Ben looked taken aback at the sight – or perhaps the sheer animosity of the energy. He recovered quickly, thrusting his hand and the crystal into the center of the forming vortex, showing not an ounce of fear for his own safety as he did.
Instantly, the ather was drawn into the blank crystal, the stone crackling and turning a solid murky black. The mage grit his teeth as he watched it overfill.
“So much… so corrupted…” Ben muttered. “What did he do to create this?”
Aware that the crystal could only handle so much before it took damage, the mage flourished with his other hand, deconstructing the energy. The aether then released from the top of the stone, slowly at first, but then as a shimmering constant stream of clean light – as if drawing it through the crystal was a filter to contain the darkness.
Scylla winced, watching Amon’s vitals swing from one direction to another. She held his hand as he seized up, eyes rolling back in his head as he passed in and out of consciousness. The darkness spread out before her, seeming to explode free from his form.
It quickly overwhelmed the machine, and only by Ben’s aether control did not it not overwhelm everyone in the room.
“There’s just so much.” Scylla whispered, trying to direct the aether with her own paltry energies. “It’s not stopping…”
Amon struggled to stay awake as his life energies poured out of his body. He felt so heavy. It was hard to decipher what was happening around him.
As his vision blurred to the waking world, he watched the bloom of aether spread above him. Sickly dark, like oil spreading across the surface of air, it choked out even the dreaded spotlight that had so mercilessly shown upon him earlier.
From the reactions he felt around him, the others could see it, too.
The Allagan stammered in shock at the sight. Was that coming from him? Was that what he’d contained for so long?
Was that what he’d created? It looked like…
“What have I done?”
A low moan escaped his lips as his eyes found shapes of the past within the shadows.
“No… no…” Amon tried to turn his head from the vision. “’Tisn’t right… ‘tisn’t what aether should be… ‘Tis nothing beautiful in this.”
Scylla looked down at Amon. His face was a picture of terror, ears flushed with blood. She had never seen him so scared, even in the worst bouts in their childhood.
“Look at me, Maxears…” She squeezed his hand tighter. “Focus… on me.”